Tuesday, April 30, 2013

High Concept Romance: When the Dish Ran Away With the Spoon...

The second in Elizabeth Boyle's "Rhymes With Love" series, AND THE MISS RAN AWAY WITH THE RAKE came out about a month ago, but it's not too late to snatch up a copy of your own and join in with all the buzz. For those of you who shirk buzzed books--and I totally understand--let me assure you this novel is delightful.

Things that will amuse you as you read:

1.) The Hatfields and McCoys feud. It's more than Montague and Capulet--that was child's play. This is pure "fighting about a pig" type of feuding. And it's hilarious. And each side has their own old harridan who lets fly her opinion on the other family and how awful they are.

2.) The YOU'VE GOT MAIL high-concept premise. (Yes, I know that You've Got Mail was based off of In the Good Old Summertime musical and the The Shop Around the Corner movie--both wonderful and should be watched if you get a chance.) But that whole "in letter form, you're wonderful; in real life, I think you're horrid" premise is pretty funny.

3.) The Fake Rake. This was a bit of a twist. You know how in some books they'll play up a character as wholly rakish and he's not? This one is definitely not a rake, but exhibits rakishness whenever in the company of the heroine. I prefer that kind of fake rake, myself. As if the hero is so overcome by the heroine, he can't help but ravish her. Repeatedly.

4.) How long they carry the whole premise out. After a while, it becomes apparent both characters are in on the fact that they're letter writers who hate each other in real life--and it all becomes a stand off as they each try to goad the other one into admitting they don't want the "perfect letter writer" but the one they're with. Stubborn. As. Mules. And they deserve every bit of trouble they get out of the situation the more they carry it out.

5.) The Solution. Because the Hatfields and McCoys aren't normal families that would let a little ruination actually UNITE the families, there is a black moment where you wonder, "How are they going to end up together?" Because as stubborn and as foolish as they have been, you're still rooting for them to get together. Really. And it's an elegant solution.

So while I dearly enjoyed this book--there have been books that carry the joke too far. It's a delicate line. What books do you recall that were able to carry off the joke? Or didn't? Any other books that were like YOU'VE GOT MAIL that you enjoyed?
Monday, April 29, 2013

The Benefits of Judging Contests

I didn't used to judge contests. I didn't feel I had any business passing judgment on other writers’ work, let alone telling them how to make it better. I also don’t take much pleasure in critiquing, which is why I don’t have traditions critique partners and have never joined a critique group.

But at some point, I changed my mind on judging and to my own amazement, I really enjoy it.

It’s not always easy. Sometimes you get an entry that needs a lot of input. If I ever said anything that caused a writer to put away her keyboard I’d be devastated, so I’m very careful of the feedback I give. The positives are always pointed out first. I like to point out what the writer does well. And in almost every case, there’s something done well.

As aspiring writers, we’re often aware of our weaknesses and feel this desperate need to eliminate them. The truth is, there will always be some element of writer at which we’re going to be weak. The trick is to make your strengths so strong that the weaknesses become less noticeable.

But in judging, you have to be honest and let the writer know where they could use some work. They've paid money to enter a contest in order to get feedback that will make them better. As the judge, it’s my job to provide that feedback.

And this is where I learn from every entry.

I have to first figure out which aspects aren't working. Why the story isn't holding my attention. Then I have to find a way to explain the problem in a constructive way. This is where I learn things. It doesn't matter what I’m trying to explain, whether it’s plotting, characterization, or something as simple as grammar issues, each entry teaches me something I can apply to my own writing.

I doubt the entrants ever consider they’re providing a service to those of us who judge, but they are. And if you've never taken the opportunity to judge a contest, I highly recommend it.

Have you judged contests? Do you enjoy it? Have you entered a contest and received feedback that made a positive impact on your writing? We've all heard the horror stories. Let’s stick with the positive today. If you haven’t judged or been judged, do you analyze the books you read to learn from them?
Friday, April 26, 2013

Gladiators with Kittens...Oh, and a New Cover.

Okay, I just threw this in because I loved it.  Apparently, in Europe they do these re-enactments of Gladiator Games.  And someone had kittens.  Or maybe they all had kittens.  Or maybe, instead of fighting lions, they fought kittens.  Anyway - I liked the photo.

So, I finally made a new cover for Hitman.  For those of you old enough to remember, back in 2008, the print version of the cover looked like this:

I know, that was a long time ago.  But I hated this cover.  First of all, the book takes place in the jungle.  So why is she wearing high heels and a dress and he's barefoot and in jeans?  Secondly - SHE'S the hitman - not him, so why is he holding the gun.  Thirdly - it's just a very ugly cover.
So when I got the rights back and self-pubbed the book, I quickly made up this cover:

Which was OKAY... except that they are in the jungle (see previous arguement) so why is she wearing pants and a turtleneck, and it had an icky, white background.
I'd always planned on a re-vamp of the cover.  It took me 2 years before I found a stock photo I liked.  So the new cover features her in a bra - which is like Survivor (or Survival - the cheap Canadian knock-off in the book) and there are bruises and stains, which are consistent with the book.  The only problem is her hair.  The model's hair is long and dark.  Missi's hair is short and blonde. 
But in the end, the cover looks better and fits the story better - so I 'm hoping no one reads the book and says, "HEY!  They LIED on the cover!"  I think my chances are pretty good.  Right?
The Assassin
Thursday, April 25, 2013

The pen, the sword, and the . . . highlighter?

Yesterday was my blog day, and it took until noon to remember that it was Wednesday and I was supposed to have posting something 12 hours ago. So let's have some Thursday fun, for everyone else out there who is also struggling with the day of the week (and those of you who do have your head wrapped around which day it is, are welcome too, even if we stare at you like aliens and pat your heads to figure out your secret).

Last week I printed out my whole current manuscript. I've been revising so long I've lost sight of the bigger picture.  I can't remember when clues have been revealed, or what the character's reactions are supposed to be at any given moment.

So I printed out the whole thing and sat down to read it.

In the way of general advice, I've heard over and over again that when you sit to read your manuscript, if you're goal is to read it in one setting or get a big-picture view, you should not be holding a pen. No pen, no pencil, no highlighter -- no taking notes or jotting ideas or fixing words.

Just read, and read it straight through.

This is amazingly hard for me. On the first page, I was immediately struck by one little word change that will perfect the whole scene and if I don't write it down right now I will forget it and never ever get it back. Right? So I cheated and jotted down one note.

Then on the next page, there was one little error that of course I had to mark because who knows if I would notice it next time? I obviously hadn't noticed it the previous times through, and this may be my only chance! So I cheated and jotted down that note.

You can see where this is going. An hour later, I was 10 pages in. I was not getting the big picture. I was being bogged down by the minute wording changes that always bog me down.

Back in college, I was one of those geeks on the speech and debate team. College debate has all these funky rules, left over from the 17th Century British Parliament, where audience members pound the table and yell "for shame" when you offer up a weak argument. One of those rules is that you cannot be holding a pen in your hand while you debate. Apparently, back in the day, when pens were the kind you dipped in ink wells, they were sharp enough to do some damage. Debating with a pen in your hand was the equivalent of waving a sword at your opponent.* After all, you might lunge and pierce them through the neck if you couldn't think of a clever response. But even back then, setting down my pen and leaving it alone was hard for me. I wanted to fiddle with it in my hand while I talked. Which of course, lead to me losing points. Then, like now, my pen was getting in the way of my goal.

So no pens. Got it. Next I tried highlighters. Surely if I have a stack of multi-colored highlighters beside me, I can just highlight the section quickly in the right color and keep reading. Pink if it's a character problem, green if it's a wording problem, you get the idea. But still, I was focused on watching for mistakes and identifying how to fix them, not on how the arc of the story was progressing.

Finally, I laid down my sword, er, ballpoint pen and multi-colored highlighters, locked them away inside, and sat on the sunny deck and read the whole thing. After a few painful moments of going past errors without stopping, I got sucked into the story and the next 200 pages flew by. And it worked - I have a solid sense of the big picture now. It lead to some obvious conclusions about the ending, and gave me the motivation and context to outline the entire new ending and get started. 

What about you? Do you struggle to read your own work without making constant corrections? Does it kill you to see an error and just keep reading without fixing it? What do you do when you need a sense of the big picture? And for our philosophical questions of the day, which is mightier, the pen, the sword, or the highlighter?

*Those days are pretty hazy - I have no clue if any of this about pens and swords is accurate, but it's what I remember. If anybody has more accurate info, I'd love to hear it!
Tuesday, April 23, 2013

DARK TRIUMPH Triumphs as a Sequel to GRAVE MERCY

I'll try to keep the gushing short and sweet because we all have things to do and deadlines to attend to today. I also admit my pick of the week will not appeal to those who do not enjoy YA novels...or darker, grittier themes and conflicts. The setting is late Middle Ages, and the star of the novel is a female in a time period where rights and freedoms are few and non-existent.

I thrive on novels where the heroines are clearly marked by their time period and the society they intermingle with, but still rise beyond their circumstances without being anachronistically ridiculous. I'm sure this series rides that edge, so to speak, since these particular heroines are given a bit more freedom and power, in that they are trained assassins. It does make the ordinary girl from this time period at least interesting, when normally her life story would be about her being married to a pig farmer...or under the tyrant-thumb of her ambitious baron of a father.

My disclaimer aside: Oh, I so totally adored DARK TRIUMPH. It was so, so, so dark. And it was so, so, so captivating. And I am so, so, so in love with the Beast, a knight who is a bit crazy, doesn't understand the meaning of limitations, loves killing (if they deserve it, obviously), and is honorable to the point of getting everyone killed at least a dozen times before the book is done.

The heroine is a bit more...pragmatic, has a lot more scars that makes her less trusting and not value herself as a person as much as Beast does, and also loves killing. The latter is one of the Beast's very favorite things about her. He says, "Ismae kills with a sort of earnestness, but not with any real enjoyment." Like Sybella does. I'm not sure why it's funny to me they both love their jobs as trained killers so much, but it does; or maybe it's a sign of my progressive burnout, I envy people who enjoy their work as much as these two do. Doesn't matter. There are doses of clear levity in the novel to help balance out the dark and gritty circumstances and themes throughout.

This is a historical fantasy book, so while some of the characters are historically accurate and some of the events are indeed true, some things have been edited for the time considerations. (War is ever so much more exciting in a novel than it is in real life. There's a lot of boredom in war; and Twitter wasn't around yet to keep everyone apprised of location, plans, or commentary. Though it would be funny to see what the Twitter accounts for this particular time period and historical figures would be, considering the Duchess in question they are protecting is a thirteen-year-old girl, who acts about three times her age and probably did at the time too, since she would be the only person she knew for sure was interested in her well-being.)

If you read the first book in this series (and that would be suggested), this heroine is much darker than her predecessor. She is who she is, and it becomes clear why she is who she is. She's almost an anti-heroine, but there is enough light/good in her to root for her. 

So if you like assassinations, various poisons and weapons in action, burly knights--who aren't conventionally handsome at all, heroines who are capable and have entertaining perspectives about their current situation, and yes, a hero to sigh for--you may too enjoy this book as much as I did.

I can't imagine anyone enjoying this book as much as I did. I *LOVED* this book. I want to canonize the Beast for all heroes to aspire to from henceforth. (See, the book is even contributing to this ridiculous way of speaking.) Go find this book. Be sure to remember to thank me when you're all in a delicious haze of post-novel afterglow.

DARK TRIUMPH by Robin Lafevers.
Monday, April 22, 2013


Terri has been so keyed up to see that band she's been raving about, she forgot all about today's blog. I, of course, have nothing today--though I did spend a wonderful Friday, tooling around St. Charles, popping in and out of old shoppes and getting my British fix. (They have some British shoppes there and I want to buy one of everything. I'm not kidding.)

So let's do a Fast Five today. I mean, what else you going to do, right?

1.) Book you just finished reading.

2.) Book you plan to read next.

3.) Problem/project you're working on this Monday.

4.) The power drink helping you accomplish this.

5.) Best Gossip you heard this weekend.


1.) DARK TRIUMPH, by Robin Lafevers. (Brilliant).

2.) I'm now reading THE DARK HEROINE.

3.) My desk. It looks like a forest threw up everywhere. So much for our paperless society; and my to-do list is out the wazoo.

4.) Diet Mountain Dew, but I have a spare real-deal Pepsi in the bag if things get bad.

5.) Reese Witherspoon got arrested. Who saw that coming? I'm definitely giving her a pass on this one--she's been a good girl for like God knows how long and suddenly she's defying an officer because she's an "American" and she can stand on American ground. God love her. That was one margarita too many, girlfriend.
Friday, April 19, 2013

Bailing Out

This Week Sucked

Come on, you were all thinking the same thing!

Let’s just scrape this last week off the bottom of our feet and dancing barefoot in the sand.

No television, no news, no internet. Just music, mojitos and the water. Sun dancing water. Just look at it. And let’s forget everything else…

I suffered burnout/blankout/brainfry this week.
I’m just gonna stare at the water…
Join me?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Writerly Identity Crisis

I’m been writing seriously for over five years. I’ve taken time off here and there.  After my second son, I took almost a year off.  But, for the most part, I’ve considered myself during this time to be “writing seriously.”

Not that I’m serious.  Just that I write most of the time with a serious intent. You understand the difference here.

Anywhoodle. Of those five+ years that I’ve written, I’ve completed three books.  I had a misfire on this last one, but I’ve actually finished three.  And all of them have been romance novels. I have always considered myself a romance writer.

But the story I’m working on has other ideas.

The story has lots of romantic elements. In fact, the two main characters have strong feelings for each other of the lovey-kissy kind. But, though it has a lot to do with how the characters grow and how the story plays out, it isn’t the central focus of the story. Their relationship issues aren’t the main conflict. They’re an important conflict, just not the only one.

As the story is upper-YA/New Adult, I’m not really surprised. These are folks in their early 20s. They’ve got lots going on in their lives. Romance is one of them, but so is trying to find their way between adolescence and adulthood. Facing major life changes, new responsibilities. Looking forward at the rest of their lives and wondering what the hell is going on.

So, yes, the romance is there. It’s important. Really important.  But it’s not my main focus for once and I’m a little nervous about it.

I’m having a bit of an identity crisis, you guys.

So, I guess what I want to ask you is…. What books can you think of (particularly this genre as I’m being selfish and want to make sure I’m not out in left field with no glove but really any genre will work) in which the romance is integral but not the major conflict? Also, do you consider yourself a writer of a specific genre or just a writer of tales? Do you think it matters? 
Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Garden of Happy Endings: A Little of Everything for Nearly Everyone

I love it when Barbara O'Neal writes books specifically for me. It's like we email weekly and she pops out with these delightful prizes that are exactly what I needed. Of course, we've never spoken, so it's not so much that she knows me so well as she's clairvoyant.

THE GARDEN OF HAPPY ENDINGS is from April of 2012, but I had read her other books that were similar in this vein. Family relationship dynamics, cooking or gardening in some form, women's fiction with lots of growth, but a little romance for the rest of us. I'm pretty sure I've written ecstatically about the others as well--Barbara O'Neal's voice is just like that. She could write the phone book to you in such a way, you'd have a great time reading it.

In this one, besides the family dynamics, the gardening, and the romance, there is a crisis of faith. And boy howdy, do you understand how this could happen for the woman. The first time she turned her back on God--well, that one is important to read as it happens in the story--but the SECOND time she has a crisis of faith, it was because her boyfriend, whom she has walked all over the better part of Spain with, suddenly says, "I can't marry you because I need to become a priest." I. Would. Be. Unglued.

Now many, many years later, she and this ex-fiance are still good friends, the best of friends. And it's when she has her third crisis of faith that the man steps back into her life and forces them both to deal with the past they've still not really reconciled, jealousies, the fact they still love each other, etc, etc. If this woman didn't have enough problems of her own, her own sister finds out--rather abruptly--that her husband had orchestrated a Ponzi scheme and now she has nothing. Not a thing. And being the pampered wife of a multi-millionaire to a poor, shopping at a second hand store is a difficult transition for her. (You want to slap her quite a few times. I was all, "You can't be this shallow!" and then again, I've never been that rich, so quite frankly I could very well be that shallow if given the opportunity. Don't worry. The sister is quite likable and pulls her own weight; it just takes her a while to transition.)

There are a couple romances--both are rather surprising. I just wasn't sure either of them would work out, just due to the conflicts created by the characters and the story, but happily they both do work out. Not in a contrived sort of way, but in a "that was how it was supposed to happen" sort of way.

The unfortunate aspect of the book is that you never get to shank that woman's husband who did the Ponzi scheme. I did find it extremely fascinating that Barbara was able to make us feel compassionate for the sister and the man's daughter, when you were secretly wondering, "How did they not know?" because I know after watching some Ponzi schemes in the news in the last few years, I'm never real concerned how the immediate family members are going to survive day to day. "Oh, boo-hoo, they'll have to eat ramen noodles like the rest of us." Yeah, it's a little more complicated than that. So applaud to Barbara for at least making me see the other side of the horse here, but a boo that we never got to shank him for causing this great big fat mess. Oh, well, there's always the next book. This particular book belonged more to the other sister anyway. Hers was the story that needed to truly resolve.

Oh, and when my Dad asked what this book was about, I said, "It's about a woman who helps a priest make a community garden in an empty lot behind some apartments, and this gang keeps tearing up the garden and threatening the people who live there." Which is true. That's also a huge aspect of the book and I clearly didn't even touch on that. Dad said, "This is why we can't have nice things." Well or something to that effect. 

So any Barbara O'Neal fans? Fans of women's literature? Any crises of faith? Any Ponzi schemes I should know about? Gardening fiction? What are you reading this week?
Monday, April 15, 2013


My day job has been going through an awkward growing phase. Our department is merging with another department; and in a bid for more efficiency, they're streamlining jobs. Don't worry. No one is losing a job. It's that in the other department, people who had been doing three different things now gets to lob it off onto my department. Specifically me and my co-worker. That's fine. Whatever.

Meanwhile for the last nine months or so, I've been a part of a staff council, and we meet for about an hour or an hour and a half every other week. It's a good thing we're doing on the council, but the time requirements do take away from what I need to be doing at my desk. And my co-worker's, because I said she should sign up for the council too. I'm not a meeting person--and because the Universe knows this, there have been about three other groups I'm required to go to meetings now. I usually have one or two hour-long meetings a week now, when in the old days I had the luxury of zero meetings.

Good times.

Never mind this is the time of year when 2/3 of the applications I need to process come through the door and every other email is "You've had my application for MONTHS. When will I get a decision?" It's honestly all I can do not to start setting things on fire. My co-worker is dealing with the same type of headaches, plus doing a lion's share of the committee work. We're both going through burnout, each competing for the window to jump out of so we don't have to return to work tomorrow.

Then you've got the Spring that won't make up its mind to arrive, overcast days that remind you of Seattle, and a cold wind that says Winter isn't leaving ever. (Don't you hate it when houseguests refuse to leave?) We're wore out. We spend 10 p.m. Sunday nights looking forward to FRIDAY when we have another 2 day weekend and we haven't even arrived at Monday yet.

So I did something odd--with the blessing of my co-worker--I took a day off. Friday. Because weekends should really be comprised of three days at the minimum. Now the key to having an extra day to recover from burnout is NOT to sleep the whole time. And I'm a notorious sleeper. Instead I got up on Friday with plans...my plans, happy plans. To do things I'm normally too exhausted on my weekends to normally do.

I did dishes. I decluttered. I wrote some pages. I took a nap. I went to the store and acquired items to complete a Spring project I've half started. I made soup--good soup! I kept mostly off the computer and did not watch TV most of the day. I finished reading a book.

It. Was. Heavenly.

I woke up Saturday later but still boggled THIS was Saturday. I dawdled more, as in keeping with my typical Saturdays, but by mid-afternoon, I worked on the Spring project. I put my hands in the dirt; I was outside in the warm breeze and the Spring sun. I pulled weeds and dug up a little plot to turn into my Little Garden. I filled the area with heavy, black dirt; then I planted two of the goofiest tiniest sticks that are supposed to be lilac bushes into a pot. My muscles were already screaming at me, but damnit, this feels good. This is creative and productive and healthy. Now if my little garden will produce at least one thing I can eat this Spring/Summer, this will be a success.

Then again, it's already a success. I feel good. I feel hopeful. I'm looking forward to Monday instead of Friday. I'm already planning my next Burnout Day--next Friday, where I'll venture out to meet with a cousin and do all sorts of cousin things.

Do you suffer from burnout? What do you do to counter it? What do you wish you could do? How do you keep balance in your everyday life?
Friday, April 12, 2013


When my niece and nephews were younger and there would be family parties, my DH and I always brought a piñata. We lived in Southern California and there were places all over the area where we could buy them. Or sometimes we made them.

For those who don’t know what a piñata is, imagine a circle of kids surrounding one kid holding a piñata bat (looks like a regular wooden bat, carved and painted to be pretty). Blindfold this kid and then spin them until they didn’t know where they are, good and dizzy. Then point them at a suspended papier-mâché form, crammed full of candy, and let them whack away.

You know, describing it makes it sound really dangerous. It’s the most fun if you keep hauling the piñata out of their reach. (Sadistic, yeah. Hee, hee.) They take turns until someone finally destroys it and candy scatters and the kids dive in.

Used to love that game.

What does that have to do with writing? Well, I’m not sure, but it does seem to sum up the new world of publishing. I feel like a blindfolded kid. Or the piñata. Maybe one of the other kids, waiting for the candy to drop.

All I know is there is there is a bat out there being handled by someone with a blindfold on. I want to think it’s me.

My dearest Terri, sent me two emails on Wednesday. Two different self-published authors with words of advice. Sorta reminded me of that poem, two roads converged in a woods and I took the one less traveled … In an echo chamber, sung in a round. In a house of mirrors.

Everyone wants a short cut. I do. But I also know there simply isn’t one out there. It’s a crapshoot, it’s about the luck of finding that golden ticket. I’m a lucky person. Not always the most patient in the world, but I’m learning.

I loved those emails. I saved them and printed them up and put them in my white binder of manuscript prep. Someday I’ll write one. Right now, I don’t know what works. I’m not even sure what doesn’t work.

I do love an adventure! I may whine and cry sometimes about being disappointed, but then I get an awesome review and I just shake my head. Time will tell and all I can control is today. And when you’re blindfolded, holding a bat, all you can do is listen and swing with care…

Can you think of anything else that is so full of contrary techniques?  What has made you dizzy with what the heck you’re supposed to do, with anything? What do think? You feel like the bat? The piñata? The candy? Surrounding kids? Or do you hold the bat?
Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Winning The Battle

You may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.
-- Margaret Thatcher

The past few days I've seen multiple posts with quotes from Margaret Thatcher but the one above is the one that really stuck out and spoke to me. Combine that with Terri's post from Monday, and it's what's been on my mind, ta-da blog post!

Terri's reminder to us that a writer's process can change very much when you cross that oh-so-hard hurdle of becoming a gasp! published author had me commenting that I don't currently think to much about how much my output will need to increase. That's mostly because for the most part I've been losing the battle to write lately.

It's a battle I've lost and won many times over the past few years. My victories have been small ones though. Limited. Fleeting. Eventually I surrender and let the craziness of my life fly its flag victorious.

There are months I take back my lunches and write a good 500-1000 words a day. And there are months, nay, multiple months in a row where I'm lucky if 100 words get added.

But I continue to battle on. I will never give up until the winning days outweigh the losing ones. That will be when the shift for me from writing without thinking about the future to writing with the future in mind will happen.

Because The Iron Lady is right. Not every war is won or lost in a single battle. In fact, everyday that a writer puts words on paper is a day you won the battle. To find the time, inspiration and sanity(!) to get your story down is a victory. Each and everyday.

Does your battle tally show more wins than losses? What helps you win that battle from day-to-day and week-to-week? Do you approach getting words on the page as a battle or have you won the war and its now become conquered territory? Are you like me and have multiple battles going on in your life at the same time?
Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Comfort Reads and Comfort Flicks

I read a little cozy mystery last week called FARM FRESH MURDER by Paige Shelton, which had some crazy local characters, all capable of murder, and one cute amateur sleuth who nearly dies about four times before she solves the whole thing. I know many readers find these comfortable because they’re a comfortable blend of whodunit with a sprinkle of romance, a splash of spook, and heaps of laughter. Oh, and in the end, if it’s the right kind of cozy mystery, you get three or four recipes inspired by the book. Being my second biggest book collection is cookbooks, you can see why I might find these books fun.

This was pretty typical of the genre: there was a murder and we spent 280 pages trying to figure out who the heck did it. I think the author did an admirable job of keeping the tension going and there were some close calls. I’m not sure if I agree with the murderer she picked; I’m just not sure I got WHY they did it. Then again, there’s not always or usually logic in a murder, is there? Only in fiction is this “necessary”. All I know is that the book itself wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t quite the comfort read I was expecting. Perhaps because the murderer didn’t seem logical. I’m not sure.

But then this weekend, I also watched a movie you might have heard of, SKYFALL. And this is probably my one non-Anglophile thing, I’m not a fan of the James Bond movies. It’s not the character himself—the ultra super spy that can’t be killed no matter how close it may happen, he walks out with his tux still sharp. Bond, I like. It’s the girls…and the silly villains that get on my nerves because they’re so cartoony and insulting. (For some reason, I don’t find oversexed, alcoholic, witty super spy to be insulting at all. Odd.) Anyway, I don’t typically watch the movies; and the actors for these things are usually pretty darned hot, right? Seriously.

And I was watching SKYFALL, not altogether certain I would like it, but within the first ten minutes I was sure I was going to like this. Loved it actually. It’s the perfect comfort Bond flick—because let’s face it. He prevails. The man is shot in the first five minutes, falls into a river and doesn’t die of a gunshot wound, bleeding out, infection, or drowning? Riiiight. Even Batman is going, “Oh, come on!”

But what I loved about this particular Bond movie is how it pushed the boundaries of the “tried-and-true”, the things we enjoy most about a Bond movie with some really real thoughts. Like isn’t Bond getting a little old for this crap? How is he possibly still holding this together? But compared to some of the characters in this movie, Bond was the young-un. M and Kincade were both older than Bond—and still kicking ass. “Old people” (I use the term loosely) who still have it. But then you have Q, who looks 12 and is snotty as all get out about how smart he is (and how he wrote some of the programming the villain was using) and boom, the villain outwitted him with his own programs. Ah, youth. Don’t you love it when they’re humbled too? There’s some comfort that the young ones still need to take some lessons from the old dogs.

I mention the movie because it still ended up as a comfort flick. It ended how it needed to, how you expected it to end. Things were logical. Plots and subplot threads were all weaved and tied up at the end (appeals to my logical need). The song “Skyfall” had great meaning when I heard it again after watching the movie; and I even watched the movie again.

So…I think the discussion I’m having today is what is your comfort go-to read/eat/watch? Why? And what MUST be part of said comfort to make it a comfort or it just doesn’t work? Also did SKYFALL (if you saw it) work for you or do you prefer the Sean Connery ones? I realize SKYFALL might not be a comfort Bond flick for everyone. 
Monday, April 8, 2013

A View From the Other Side

From 2007 to 2012, I was an aspiring writer, though that term isn’t necessarily accurate and when you really think about it, a bit insulting. I wasn’t aspiring to be a writer. I was a writer. I was just a writer without a book for sale. But this blog isn’t about semantics. I’ll save that one for another time.

This blog is about finding myself on the other side of that wall all writers are trying to climb. The other side of publication. I’m not all the way over yet, as the book won’t hit the streets until next month, but I’m far enough along to have a completely different view. A view that requires some adjustment.

When you’re working toward getting published, you finish your manuscript, then you revise it. And revise and revise and revise. Maybe then you send it to friends, and when they give you feedback, you revise a little more. By the end of the process, you’ve lived with those characters for a long, long time. At least a year, if not five.

This is not the case once you get to the other side. Not that this is a bad thing, it’s just different and a bit disconcerting. I started writing MEANT TO BE in early 2011 and finished the revisions in March of 2012. I started writing book 2 in the series, UP TO THE CHALLENGE, in the summer of 2012 and finished it early February 2013.

That’s a book in 14 months to a book in 8 months. Now I have less than 5 months to write the last book in the series, HOME TO STAY. At the same time, I have to promote book 1 and take breaks now and then to do edits on book 2. And then there’s creating a proposal for a book that isn’t written yet. As a writer who doesn’t always know what happens in the story until she’s writing it, summarizing something that doesn’t exist is not easy.

My point is, I don’t get to live with my characters for a year or two anymore. I don’t have time to revise six times before maybe sending the story to a few friends. Almost as soon as I get all the post-its on the storyboard for the book I’m writing, it’s time to take them back off to make room for the next story.

Let me make this clear. I am not complaining. But I think this is an element of getting published that few talk about. So I’m talking about it.

A new class of Golden Heart finalists was recently announced. More than 40 writers who now have a badge of honor that will get them noticed, get them read, and maybe get them an agent or editor. To them and all the other writers who are scaling the wall, I say be ready. Take a deep breath, keep an open mind, and enjoy every minute of whatever the future holds.

Just know, it might not always look the same as it does from where you are today.

Do you think about what it’ll be like when you’re on the other side? Are you prepared to produce at a faster pace? For readers, do you like the faster turnaround on new books these days? Do you ever think quality is being sacrificed for quantity?